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Boston Catholic health-care agency wins state contract- including abortion coverage March 12, 2009

Caritas Christi, the health-care agency administered by the Archdiocese of Boston, has joined in a successful bid for a government contract to provide health services for low-income clients. The program requires coverage for abortion, sterilization, and contraception.

State officials on March 13 awarded the contract for low-income coverage to Commonwealth Family Health Plan, a joint venture set up by Caritas Christi and the Centene Corporation, a Missouri-based company which currently has no facilities in Massachusetts. The Commonwealth Family Health Plan program will be centered around the Catholic hospitals of the Caritas Christi network.

The involvement of the archdiocesan health-care system in a program that provides abortions drew protests from Boston Catholic activists. The Catholic Action League called the contract “a significant defeat for the pro-life movement, inflicted not by secular society, but by the Catholic Church in Boston.”

Last week, in a response to such criticism, Cardinal Sean O'Malley asserted: “Caritas Christi will never do anything to promote abortions, to direct any patients to providers of abortion or in any way to participate in actions that are contrary to Catholic moral teaching and anyone who suggests otherwise is doing a great disservice to the Catholic Church.” However, the cardinal's claim was contradicted by representatives of Commonwealth Care, who assured state officials that their program would provide "ready access" to all of the services mandated by the government program, including abortion.

Under the Commonwealth Family Health Plan system, abortions will not be performed at the Caritas Christi hospitals. But women who wish to procure abortions will be given a telephone number to call for information on where abortions are performed, and, if necessary, transportation to those sites.

[Editor's note: In an earlier version of this story, the joint venture was wrongly identified as "Commonwealth Care"-- which is in fact the name of the state government agency awarding the contract. We regret the inaccuracy.]

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